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Last chance: Stock up on standard first-class stamps before prices rise by 14% next week

You've got just days left to stock up on first-class stamps before prices rise by 14%. From Monday 2 October, the cost of a first-class stamp will be hiked to £1.25 (up 15p from £1.10) – but if you buy stamps at their current price this week, you'll still be able to use them after the price goes up.

Other stamp prices will also rise, though standard second-class stamps will remain at their current price of 75p.

It's the second time the price of standard-letter size first-class stamps have been hiked this year, after they last went up by 16% in April.

Below, we've explained the key changes and why you should stock up now to beat the hikes.

How much stamps will cost from next week

Regular stamp prices from 2 October

Class & letter size (1) Current price New price Price rise (%)
First – Standard £1.10 £1.25 15p (+14%)
First – Large £1.60 £1.95 35p (+22%)
Second – Standard 75p 75p No change
Second – Large £1.15 £1.55 40p (+35%)

(1) Standard and large letters using the stamps above can weigh 100g max (large letters can weigh up to 750g using other stamps). Standard must be no larger than 24cm x 16.5cm x 5mm. Large letters can be no bigger than 35.3cm x 25cm x 2.5cm.

The cost of Royal Mail's 'Signed For' and 'Special Delivery Guaranteed' services will also increase from Monday 2 October, as will its Parcelforce 'Worldwide Next Day' and 'Two Day UK' services – see the Royal Mail website for the full list of prices (link opens as a PDF).

Beat the hikes by stocking up now

The shake-up means you now have until this Sunday (1 October) to inflation-proof your postage costs by securing stamps at their current prices, to beat the coming hikes (plus any more in future too). If you buy them at today's prices, you'll still be able to use them on or after Monday 2 October.

Martin Lewis, MoneySavingExpert.com founder.

Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, said: "For years, every time stamps go up in price I've suggested people stock up and bulk-buy in advance, as provided the stamp doesn't have a price on it and instead just says the postage class, it's still valid after the hike.

"This has been an effective tactic, as a first-class letter stamp is now £1.10, soon to be rising to £1.25 – in 2012 it was just 60p.

"So you may as well stock up now, even if it's just for Christmas cards for the next few Christmases."

Another alternative is to consider using cheaper second-class stamps, particularly on standard-sized letters, as these prices aren't changing in October.

For larger-sized deliveries, see our Parcel delivery guide to help cut the cost of parcel couriers.

You can no longer use non-barcoded stamps, but you can still exchange them using Royal Mail's 'Swap Out' scheme

On 31 July this year, Royal Mail scrapped everyday non-barcoded stamps – the ones that feature a profile of the Queen's head – in favour of barcoded versions. You can no longer use these non-barcoded stamps, but you can exchange them for new barcoded versions for free.

There is currently no deadline on when you need to complete the swap by, but we suggest doing it sooner rather than later in case the scheme closes.

You don't need to swap Christmas stamps or 'special' stamps with pictures on as these are still valid. All King Charles III stamps in circulation have barcodes on them, so it's only non-barcoded stamps with the Queen's profile that you need to swap.

You'll need to complete a standard 'Swap Out' form for stamps worth up to £200, or a Bulk Stamp 'Swap Out' form for stamps worth more than £200. There are four ways to get a standard form:

  1. Print out the form from Royal Mail's website (link opens a PDF). If you don't have access to a printer, you can instead request for a form to be posted to you by giving some details online.

  2. Phone Royal Mail's customer services team on 03457 740740 and ask for a form to be posted for free. Calls to this number are capped at your standard geographical rate, so you may want to check with your phone network how much it'll cost beforehand.

  3. Visit your local post office OR delivery office where you can pick up a form and envelope in person. ALL delivery and post offices stock them. This means you'll be able to fill in a form, pop it into a Freepost envelope with any remaining non-barcoded stamps and hand it over at the post office.

  4. Keep an eye out for a Swap Out form through your letterbox. Royal Mail sent out leaflets, which include a Swap Out form on the back, to 31 million addresses across the UK.
     

If you need a Bulk Stamp Swap Out form, you can print this out from the Royal Mail website (link opens a PDF) or request one online, or call the Royal Mail customer services number above.

There's no limit on the number of forms you can request.

How you return your stamps to Royal Mail depends on how you picked up your Swap Out form:

  • If you collected your form from a delivery office or post office, or requested one to be sent to you, you'll have been given a Freepost envelope. Send this off with your stamps once you're ready.
  • If you printed the form yourself or had it put through your letterbox, you'll need to send your own envelope to 'Freepost SWAP OUT'. It'll be free to post, and no other address details are needed.

Royal Mail says it will try to ensure all stamps are swapped within seven working days.

What does Royal Mail say?

Royal Mail blames the latest hikes on increasing cost pressures and the universal service obligation, which currently requires it to deliver letters to all UK addresses six days a week.

The postal service said: "The cost of delivering an ever-decreasing number of letters to an ever-growing number of households six days a week is unsustainable."

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